Sioux Falls, SD
State funding for education and how to increase teacher pay; those two issues took center stage in Sioux Falls today as state lawmakers and school board members from across the state met face to face.
Even though state lawmakers made up some of the money last year, school administrators wasted no time asking tough questions of four state lawmakers involved in the budget cuts of 2011.
"My opinion is we need to get caught up and give schools every option possible, but I don't know if there's the will in the legislature with the current makeup," Sen. Billie Sutton said.
"I think the will is there, it's just finding the right places to take it from to be honest," Majority Leader Tim Rave said.
"One of the things that really works against us and against you, is the amount of money that's in fund balance, in reserves," Rep. Dan Dryden said.
That statement struck a nerve with school board members.
“My memory is not that short. When our budgets were cut in 2011, if it hadn't been for reserves and a local opt out, we would have been in trouble," Sioux Falls School Board member Kent Alberty said.
"When we talk about reserves of schools, we want them to be as low as possible, but yet we don't seem to limit it at the state level, we don't look at it the same," Sutton said.
All four lawmakers agree that low teacher pay is a growing problem.
"The elephant in the room is that we're not competitive with teacher pay in South Dakota," Sutton said.
"I think you seriously have to look at changing the method of pay and look at being able to pay hard to fill positions a higher salary," Dryden said.
"We have to start talking about what are the other benefits? What are the things that you enjoy every single day in what you do that you're passionate about? We need to talk about those things," Rep. Scott Munsterman said.
But Senate majority leader Tim Rave says lawmakers, parents, teachers and administrators all need to do a better job of selling voters on the need for more money.
"We don't have to go back any further than a year ago when we lost a 150 million dollar ballot initiative and it died pretty handily at the ballot,” Rave said.